“Quarrels with our past selves”

This past weekend Link Byfield, my former boss at the Alberta Report, passed away. I remembered him in a previous entry here, after his illness was publicly announced. My former colleague Colby Cosh now does the honors:

Jan. 26, 2015, Colby Cosh in Maclean’s: R.I.P., Link Byfield


My impression is that Link had spent his early twenties knocking around Western Canada taking drugs: I don’t know if you could call him a dealer, but I gathered he had not exactly been averse to a quick profit.

Some people might be surprised by this but it wasn’t any big secret. I recall one day walking into Link’s office wearing a tee-shirt with the logo of the Marion Hotel on the front. A friend had bought this for me as a souvenir after a couple of pitchers of beer in said bar during a recent trip to Winnipeg. Link noticed the shirt and broke out laughing. “Where did you get that?” he bellowed. He had a expressive face and with a gigantic smile—when he was telling a story about something he thought was funny, preposterous, or both, he’d lean back on his chair, pull his chin back, show a good amount of teeth and squint his eyes—he explained that in his misguided youth he had served part of a community service sentence for drug possession working in the Marion Hotel bar. I was able to commiserate because in my misguided youth, I told him, at age 21 in fact, I had been busted for drunk driving and served part of my community service working in the bar at a Royal Canadian Legion. (I’m pretty sure I should insert a joke here about the Canadian justice system, but for some reason I’m lost for humor at the moment.)

Here is the quote-worthy end of Colby’s article:

It’s Ted Byfield’s great secret: he’s a hippie, only with the opposite polarity.

Some of his children, including Link, spent time as real hippies. They found that it didn’t add up, that the tethers of order and family and work had value after all. It makes you wonder how much of what we call our ideology arises from circumstance, or even emerges from quarrels with our past selves. I wish I could go back and have a long chat with Link about it over two coffees and a messy desk—his or mine would do equally well.